Search Ranking Factors You Must Know

SEO requirements are always evolving, and it can be challenging to stay on top of the latest developments.  If you are looking for your site to get traffic, you have to be in the know.  Well-optimized sites get more traffic over time, which can reflect more exposure and/or possible sales leads.  Without SEO, searchers will not have the opportunity to find your site, and all the work put in to design and development may be lost.

We would like to share this guide with you, and help explore SEO ranking factors you need for the best opportunities to dominate searches.  By the end of this guide, you will have a well-optimized site that brings you growth traffic.

Understanding SEO, How to Rank Higher on Google

Many wonder how Google rankings work. Before we get into the actual search engine ranking factors, let us get started by answering some of the basic questions most people have about SEO.

What is “Ranking” in SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which simply means making the web pages better for search engine ranking. Next we can break down how it works.

In SEO, ranking represents your content’s position on the search engine results pages (SERPs). A number one ranking means when people search for a particular term, your page is the first result (apart from promoted results or featured snippets.)

Appearing in the top three results is excellent for the simple reason that almost half of the clicks on any search results page go to those positions.

Appearing on the first page within the top 10 results is a great help to exposure, which is because 95 percent of people never make it past the first page. 

What Does Google Look for in SEO?

You may have heard that Google uses more than 200 factors before deciding which websites to show on top of the search results and while this is true, not all ranking’s factors are equal.

Google ranking factors change all the time, how do I keep up with the changes? It is true that search engines, especially Google, are making a lot of changes to their ranking algorithms per year. Their goal is to improve the quality of their search results and keep their users happy.

We have a list of the 9 most important ranking factors you should care about:

1.     A secure and Accessible website

2.     Page Speed

3.     Mobile Accessibility

4.     Domain Age, URL, and Authority

5.     Optimized Content

6.     Technical SEO

7.     User Experience

8.     Social Signals

9.  Real Business Information

1.  A Secure and Accessible Website

The first of our SEO ranking factors has to do with having the right kind of URL. Specifically, it is a URL that Google’s bots can easily reach and crawl.  Simply meaning Google has to be able to visit the URL and look at the page content to start to understand what the page is about. To help the Google bots you will need:

·      A Website created with a well-coded website builder

·      A robots.txt file that tells Google where it can and can’t look for your site information

·      A sitemap, which lists all your pages. If using WordPress, you can set up a sitemap

via Toast SEO. If not, you may use an online sitemap generator

HTTPS isn’t a factor in deciding whether or not to index a page, but Google’s own John Mueller has tweeted that it’s a “light-weight ranking factor” and that “having HTTPS is great for users.”  If you haven’t yet enabled SSL security on your website, we recommend you do.

2.  Page Speed

One of the main SEO ranking factors that have been cited is page speed. Google wants to improve users’ experiences of the web, and faster loading web pages will definitely do that.

Google has announced a search engine algorithm update focused on mobile page speed as well, this has taken affect July of 2018.  If your mobile page doesn’t have the speed then, it may be penalized or overlooked.  You may use Google’s mobile testing tool to see how your site stacks up.

3.  Mobile Friendliness

While we are on the subject of mobile, mobile-friendliness is also a major SEO ranking factor.  More people use mobile devices than desktops to access the web, and that is one of the reasons there have been changes in how Google ranks search results.

Google’s mobile-first index is now a reality, which means it’s drawing its results from mobile-optimized sites first, rather than sites geared toward desktop computers. If your site is not mobile-optimized, you risk being out in the cold, in SEO terms at least.

Many of the SEO ranking factors we’ll look at in this article will help you lay the foundation for a good search engine ranking, but you also have to look after user experience when people land on your site.

Things to look at include:

  • Whether you have a responsive site that automatically resizes to fit the device

  • Whether you’re using large fonts for easy readability on a small screen

  • Accessibility and navigability, including making it easy to tap menus

  • Ensuring that essential content isn’t hidden by interstitial ads

4. Domain Age, URL, and Authority

Nearly 60% of the sites that have a top ten Google search ranking are three years old or more. Data from an Ahref’s study of 2 million pages suggests that very few sites less than a year old achieve that ranking. 

When it comes to search engine ranking factors, authority matters. As you’ll see, that’s usually a combination of great content and off-page SEO signals like inbound links and social shares.

Moz, who predicts how well a specific page will rank on search engines, has codified this into page authority and domain authority scores, both page authority and domain authority scores ranked from 0 to 100, which tell you how likely a particular page or domain is to rank in search results.

You can check domain authority or page authority with Open Site Explorer. Just plug your URL into the onsite search box, and you’ll get a report showing domain authority, page authority, established links, and new links.

5. Optimized Content

We have talked a lot about content in this guide to Google SEO ranking factors.  That is because it is one of the most important search ranking factors. Now let us dig down and see what optimizing content for SEO really means.

Google’s search algorithm relies on keywords.  These are the words and phrases searchers use when they are looking for information.  Keywords are also the words and phrases that describe the topics your site is about. Ideally, those will match up.

One negative SEO ranking factor to be aware of is  duplicate content. For SEO, fresh, original content is always best.  If you do have content that is similar, tell Google which one should be ranked as most authoritative by using canonical URLs.

A canonical URL lets you tell search engines that certain similar URLs are actually the same. Sometimes you have products or content that can be found on multiple URLs or even multiple websites, but by using canonical URLs (HTML link tags with the attribute rel=canonical), you can have these on your site without harming your rankings.

It’s not just about the main keywords either; it’s also important to include terms related to the main terms people are searching for. These are called LSI (Latent Semantic indexing) keywords. They provide a kind of online word association to help Google know which results to show.

For example, using the right LSI keywords will tell Google that when searchers type in “mini”, your page is relevant to the car, rather than the skirt, and vice versa.

Search intent is also important when optimizing content. That means understanding what people are really looking for when they type in search keywords.  Let us say you have identified “California real estate” as a key word you would like to rank for. You might think that writing content for people looking for real estate in California is a good idea.  Now, if the people searching for that term are realtors looking to sell, too, then your content will not meet their needs, and your page will not rank.

6. Technical SEO

Earlier on, it was mentioned that getting the code right is one aspect of optimizing content for better search engine rankings.  Here are some of the aspects you need to look at:

·      Use keyword phrases in page titles, this is where Google first looks to determine which content is relevant to which search. You will see the page title as the first line of a search result entry.

·      Create a meta description that both entices readers and includes your keyword phase.  Keep meta descriptions short and grabby.

·      Use header tags to show content hierarchy. If your title is formatted as h1, use h2 or h3 for subheads.

·      Use keyword phrases in image alt tags to show how the images are relevant to the main content. Google also has an image search, which is another way for users to find your content.

7.  User Experience

One of the signals used by the Google ranking algorithm is RankBrain. RankBrain  uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to rank websites based on user experience and behavior.

The ranking algorithm considers all the factors discussed in this article, and it also uses input from RankBrain before making a final decision.

Some of the signals used are:

CTR (Clickthrough Rate) CTR is the percentage of people that click on a search snippet that shows in the SERPS.

If the system spots a pattern where more people click on a search snippet that is lower in the results than what is on the top, the algorithm may push that snippet higher in the page.

Pogosticking is when users click on your search snippet, visit your website and immediately go back to the search results, then this is an indication that they are not happy with what they saw.

Bounce rate and dwell time, similar to pogosticking, is where users visit your website and leave immediately because they did not find the information they were looking for.

8. Social Signals

When people share your content on social networks that is another valuable sign.  Cognitive SEO’s study of 23 million shares found a definitive link between social shares and social engine ranking. Google officially states that social shares are not a direct ranking factor.  Links from Facebook or Twitter are not counted the same as links from other authoritative websites.

The more your content is shared, the more people will see it and decide to link to it.  This means that getting more social shares does help your search engine ranking, if only indirectly.  Having your own social media presence is great, but you need to make sure your content is easy to share, and that it can amplify those social signals.

9.  Real Business Information

When targeting particular local areas, this piece is important.  The presence of absence of business information is one of the most crucial local SEO ranking factors. It is imperative that you include your name, address and phone number.  Make sure to have your business listings on Google My Business and Facebook. Reviews on both sites and on relevant directories like Yelp will also attract better rankings. Finally, you want to make sure the right local search terms are included.

Keeping these 9 important factors when developing and designing your site can and will help your SEO ranking.

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